By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
The Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced today that it found substantial evidence that Chris Penner, owner of North portland Bar the P Club/Twilight Annex, unlawfully discriminated against the Rose City T-Girls based on the gender identity of its members.
“No place of public accommodations in Oregon is going to be allowed to discriminate based on gender identity,” Oregon Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian said in a release. “Enforcing civil rights laws is important to all Oregonians, especially the fundamental right to patronize businesses of your choice without being summarily barred based on a group affiliation.”
Members of the group of transgender women and cross-dressers brought the issue to attorney Beth Allen and BOLI after the group’s founder received two voicemails from Penner asking the RCTG to find a new spot for its weekly social gatherings. In the voicemail messages — which RCTG founder Cassandra Lynn post to YouTube — Penner accuses the group of being bad for business.
“I’ve done some investigating why my sales are declining and there’s two things I keep hearing: People think that a) we’re a tranny bar or b) we’re a gay bar. We are neither,” the voice in the message says. “People are not coming in because they just don’t want to be there on a Friday night now.”
However, in interviews with P Club employees and patrons, BOLI investigators found that no concerns about the group were ever raised to the RCTG. Even Penner’s voicemails made clear that his problem was with how the group’s mere presence affected his perception of the image of the bar, not with anything related to the group’s behavior or even customer complaints.
“The P Club never notified the T-Girls of any complaints about their behavior and never took any steps to remove allegedly troublesome individuals,” Avakian said. “Blocking the entire group from visiting the P Club in reaction to rumors that the establishment ‘is a tranny bar’ is an overreaction, is unfair, and is on its face unlawful discrimination.”